Wednesday, 12 Dec 2018
World

Maria Butina, suspected secret agent, used sex in the covert plan, prosecutors say

It could easily slip out of the Ministry of Justice's reach simply by embarking on a message car, said Erik M. Kenerson, an American prosecutor. Russia does not deliver its citizens to the United States for prosecution

. Butina's defense lawyer Robert N. Driscoll tried to distance his client from Moscow's interference in the 2016 elections. He emphasized that Ms. Butina was not charged by Russia's special adviser for Russian interference, Robert S. Mueller III, and was not to be associated with more than two dozen Russians accused of infiltrating the computers of democratic organizations or social media to try influence the choice.

"Miss Butina is not a substitute for any of the serious or essential problems" concerning relations between the United States and Russia, Mr Driscoll said. She "has nothing to do with Müller."

The hearing, by which Butina sat almost blank, also revealed a broader federal investigation of her activities than previously known. Mr Driscoll announced that federal election commission investigators had asked Ms. Butina "if certain donations were spent on a political campaign". The prosecution revealed that the Republican political official from South Dakota, who founded a company with her in 2016, was the subject of a fraud investigation. In the indictment he is referred to as Paul Erickson (56), whom Butina calls her friend.

F.B.I. Agents have drawn attention to Ms. Butina, who graduated in International Relations in May, from last year.

During a search of her home near the American University in Tenleytown, Washington, F.B.I. Agents uncovered a trail of messages between Mrs. Butina and Mr. Torshin, who, like Mrs. Butina, were working to establish contact with N.R.A. Officer. After being featured in several news articles, she compared Torshin with Anna Chapman, a Russian intelligence agent arrested in the United States in 2010, pleading guilty to acting as a Russian agent, and being deported to Russia as part of an exchange for American prisoners.

"Are your admirers already asked for your autographs? They overshadowed Anna Chapman," Mr. Torshin wrote.

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